THE case of Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte has taken an interesting turn with his surrender Tuesday morning to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald Dela Rosa at Camp Crame in Manila and the encounter between the police and Espinosa’s men Wednesday morning killing six of them. The clash led to the recovery from the site of 21 long firearms and 16 handguns.
While Espinosa and his son Rolan a.k.a. Kerwin have already been linked to the illegal drugs trade, the story of their fall actually started late last month when the police snagged two of the mayor’s bodyguards and three men under his employ during a buy-bust operation near the Espinosas’ residence in Albuera. Subject of the operation was the caretaker of the mayor’s fighting cocks. The operation yielded an estimated P1.9 million worth of shabu. Espinosa was reportedly on leave at that time.
Last Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte, through Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, demanded the surrender of Espinosa and his son within 24 hours and, in true Duterte fashion, warned that the two would be “shot on sight” if they resist arrest and “endanger the lives of arresting police officers.” That must have sent chills down the spine of Espinosa because he surrendered. But his son Kerwin didn’t.
I find Espinosa’s statement and Dela Rosa’s claims during the press con on the mayor’s surrender rather enlightening (many of us, after all, are clueless about what is happening in Albuera even if Leyte can be considered a neighboring province). If Espinosa’s “confession” was true and not forced, then at least his son is part of a drug syndicate linked to drug personality Peter Co, who is detained in a prison in Abuyog town also in Leyte. I said “at least” because the older Espinosa has not admitted being a drug lord.
This would mean that the subsequent “clash” between the police and 12 “armed” men holed in the residences of Espinosa and his son in Albuera could result in the busting of a major pipeline of illegal drugs in Albuera and possibly in the entire Eastern Visayas. PNP spokesperson Dionardo Carlos had claimed in a gmanetwork.com report that the armed men that figured in the Albuera clash were the mayor’ private armed group. That armed group has been busted.
I would prefer to wait for more details on the alleged clash because what we are hearing so far is the police version. (Was it really a clash?) But the guns seized can arm a squad or a small platoon. And since Espinosa has supposedly admitted at the very least his son’s links to the illegal drugs trade, one can assume that the illegal drugs operation was big enough to have a standing army.
I think that this would be the end of the Espinosas ascendancy in Albuera and could possibly lead to the mayor quitting from his post. With allegations of links to the illegal drugs trade hounding him (some people insist the operation could not only be that of his son), how could he be effective again in his job? More than that, the police are expected to file cases against the mayor in relation to the clash.
There are reports Espinosa’s son has fled the country. If he hasn’t, then he is on the run and could be arrested or, as Dela Rosa repeatedly said in Tuesday’s press con, killed. If he is really the drug lord that the PNP chief described him to be, then he would be bringing the illegal drugs network that he built down with him. The personalities in that network must have scattered by now.
The rule is, credit must be given to where it is due. If at least 75 percent of the claims against Mayor Rolando Espinosa and his son is true, then this is the biggest achievement so far of the Duterte administration in its drive against illegal drugs. (I consider the breaking up of illegal drug syndicates more important than killing mere drug addicts and pushers.)
Thus, a pat on the back is in order.
(email@example.com/ twitter: @khanwens)